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Destination Races and Vacations, the Perfect Combination

Start Planning Your Destination Race Today

You know the feeling. You have exhausted every option within a 50-mile radius. Every year, it’s the same races and the same places. It always feels like you are running a marathon or half marathon. All those miles, all the hard work, seems like it deserves something more than a trip to your local park or recreation center. It is time for a new challenge with some new scenery.


There is no better way to do this than to reward yourself with a destination race and vacation.


Every year, millions of runners take their love for the sport to new heights with this combination. By simultaneously traveling and racing, runners have found a unique way to vacation along with a new way to feed their passion for running. We will take a look at this popular pastime and provide you the best tips to have a great destination race.

Pick the Right Race

While this may seem like a no-brainer, you would be surprised how many people put little thought into picking the right competition. It is easy to do. The reason is that we tend to focus solely on the destination and not the actual event itself. Runners will often plan for their days at the beach or to take in the local sites, forgetting they will be racing to a finish line soon.


Make sure that you research a race before deciding. Look at the location, distance, the terrain, and the usual weather conditions. Find out your accommodation and transportation needs and the access you will have to and from the event.


Also, read the reviews. You are putting in many miles to prepare; the race is a big part of the experience. Make it a good one. Your race must be just as fun an experience as the rest of your trip. That’s what makes it a great vacation race.

The Islamorada Half Marathon a beautiful destination race in the Florida Keys
The Islamorada Half Marathon a beautiful destination race in the Florida Keys

Make Your Training Partner a Travel Partner

Vacations are always better when you can share them. Knowing that you will have someone there to support your efforts can go a long way in bettering performance. When it comes to a destination race, having a fellow runner join you for the experience will only add to the fond memories. 


Talk to your training partner friend and let them know that you want to share a destination race and vacation experience. Not only will you have the opportunity to create fond memories during the event, but you will also create lasting remembrances as you prepare together. Building the anticipation is half the fun.

Book Your Travel

Once you have found the right race for you, it is time to book your travel and hotel needs. It is important to remember that a runcation is not just a race but an experience. Give yourself a few days to have some fun before and after the event. You do not want to have every waking moment of your vacation taken up by trips back and forth to the expo.


Mapping out your travel days will also allow you to acclimate to any time differences or other needed adjustments. 


You will want the opportunity to enjoy your destination. Plan that time into your schedule. Also, many competitions offer pre-race events. Some of the best times are the ones that build the camaraderie with your fellow runners.

Friends Celebrating together at the Finish Line

Be an Early Bird

Popular races draw big crowds. If you have ever seen a picture of the start of a major marathon, you know this to be true. Remember that all those thousands of people, just like you, will need a place to stay.


Hotels and motels fill up very quickly. The last thing you want is to register for a race, book your flight, and put in your training, only to find out that the nearest accommodations you can find are a two-hour drive from the starting line. Reserve your room early so you can get the most comfortable accommodations that are closest to the event.

Learn About Your Destination

Every destination race has things to do and see that are unique. Put in the time to research your destination. Find out what are the must-see sights and places to go. Once you arrive, talk to some of the locals or runners who have previously participated in the event.


Treat yourself to that sightseeing tour, make that reservation at that restaurant you always wanted to try. Find the hidden gems of your destination.

Take Inventory and Prepare to Pack

A destination race and vacation can quickly go from a wonderful time to a miserable experience if you do not have the right gear. Before you embark on your journey, take a full inventory of all the items you will need, then make a list.


Pack the right clothes for the weather conditions. Bring all the shoes that you will need for both the days before and the day of the event. Bring plenty of socks, and have your sweats and race day clothing ready to go.

Runners Enjoying the Purple Fiddle in Thomas, West Virginia
The Purple Fiddle a popular live music venue near the Canaan Valley Half Marathon

Expect the Unexpected

Weather conditions vary from location to location. Some places can have beautiful weather one day and miserable conditions the next. Don’t count on the weather always remaining consistent.


To prevent yourself from being caught off-guard, pack for all weather conditions. Bring an extra jacket, pack some sweatshirts or long sleeve shirts. It is easier to remove clothing if it is warm than not to have it when it suddenly gets cold.

Bring Snacks

There is no doubt that you are going to eat out a lot. While enjoying local cuisine is a big part of the experience, you mustn’t go so far out of your routine that it will negatively impact your race.


Most runners have snacks and go-to foods that they have incorporated into their diets. These are the tried and tested snacks we know work well with our workouts and race day preparations. Do not alter your regimen so much that your body doesn’t recognize what you are doing. Bring the old standby foods that you know gives your body the energy it needs.

Have Your Specialty Items for Your Special Day

We all have our favorite energy replacement drinks and bars. We cannot imagine showing up to an event and not having a swig of our preferred electrolyte mixture or a few bits of our preferred carbo bar. They provide us an extra boost and give us confidence that we have what we need to have our best performance.


Make certain that you pack those extra powdered drinks and bars. Spend a little extra money and buy some just for the trip. Keep them in their original packaging to ensure that they are fresh. Remember, you are going to a new location; there is no guarantee that your favored energy replacement items will be available. 

Be Ready to Roll

Part of the experience that many runners do not consider is travel time. Destination events often require an extended amount of time sitting in an airplane or car. These out of the norm conditions can play havoc with your muscles. Long periods of idleness can create stiffness and negatively impact your race and have you suffering out on the course.


It is wise to bring a foam roll bar, a roll-stick, or even a tennis ball to work out some of those kinks to combat this problem. Once you arrive, take a few minutes every day to massage the lactic acid and stiffness out of your legs.

Friends Having Fun at the Canaan Valley Half Marathon a Destination Race in West Virginia

Be Ready to Brew

Runners are notorious for early morning workouts. They are also just as well known for enjoying a good cup of coffee before they take their morning strides. Yet, not all accommodations will provide coffee makers in their rooms, and you certainly do not want to go to a sit-down restaurant and take that extra time to get your morning cup.


Bringing a small coffee maker or kettle so you can have your morning fix will help you avoid this problem. Race day is no time to try and figure out how to get water to boil so you can have your much-needed caffeine infusion.

Stay Healthy

Traveling to a new place comes with many new experiences. It also exposes you to many germs. Though it is exciting and fun, a trip can also be stressful, lowering your body’s ability to fight infection.


Keep as clean and sanitary as possible. Wash your hands regularly. Pack hand sanitizer, and avoid touching your face. Also, you must get plenty of rest. Taking these simple steps will give you a better chance to remain healthy during your destination race.

Have a Great Time

Running is one of the few sports in which you can pick the location of your competitions. No one tells you where to go; you have countless destinations to choose from. Vacation races offer an experience unlike any other.


Go with an open mind. These destination races have become showcases for what makes this sport so unique. Take advantage of all the opportunities they offer. Mingle with runners from other places. Take part in the pre and post-race activities and give equal efforts to enjoying the destination and your race.

Picture of Robby McClung

Robby McClung

This article was written by the editorial staff of the Canaan Valley Running Company and Robby McClung. Robby is the founder of the Canaan Valley Running Company. You can read more in the about section of the website on Robby and the Canaan Valley Running Company.

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